deschooling, Home-Based Education, Natural Learning, Unschooling

The flexibility of home-based education

In preparing research for my PhD dissertation, one of the participants in an interview made the following statement:

“… over the years we went through times of more flexibility in academic learning.  At times we were less academic, and more kinaesthetic.  In town we sometimes reverted to natural learning.  We went backwards and forwards in methods.  Over time we saw that development of character was critical; the development of godly character.”

This is one of the most powerful features of a home-based education: total flexibility.  Parents need to be deschooled, and that takes time.  The home-based journey may begin looking a bit (or a lot) like school, while confidence is being built.  However, everyone learns together, and if there is constant communication, instruction modes and ways of learning can be trialled, embraced or laid down for a time.

There are many, many ways of teaching that parents can study, trial and consider the benefit of for specific children, for specific learning objectives, for specific seasons of learning.  No one style is better than another, and all of them can sometimes be a wrong fit in a particular context, but a right fit in a totally different context.

Above all else, it has to be kept in mind that the objective is character development.  Listen to the children.  Children love learning, and if they are not loving the experience, work out why.  Is it an instructional misfit?  Are they not ready for that phase of learning?  Are they bored and need a fresh approach to the same thing?  Are they simply having a bad day, and need a big hug, a break from it all, and an opportunity to make a fresh start after a good, long sleep.

 

 

 

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deschooling, Socialization

… vive la difference …

In the book, The Twelve Year Sentence: Radical Views of Compulsory Schooling, edited by William F. Rickenbacker (1974),  H. George Resch, in his chapter ‘Human Variations and Individuality’ points out that human equality is a myth.  There is nothing equal about any of us, other than our equal responsibility to live righteously before the law.

From the minutiae of our DNA, to the macro details of our body shape, emotional responses, mental capacities, preferences, gifts and motivations; the total combination of who we actually are is completely unique from everyone else who has existed, and ever will exist.

Our uniqueness makes mass education an impossibility.  It is just not possible to cater for all the educational, emotional and relational needs of all the children in a classroom.  The expectation placed on teachers to do so is an unreasonable expectation, and in many cases causes stress for the teacher who is failing to rise to the expectation, and the students who are not having their needs met.

One of my respondents stated that, “… some children need the read / write version of instruction.   However, it is a challenge to children who are not wired that way.  Different families can cater in different ways for the differences in their children.  They can provide a certain kind of education for those children academically-oriented, and give a life-oriented education for those children who are that way inclined.  Parents can cater for the different needs of each of the children.”

Parents who are giving their children educational opportunities in the midst of everyday family life, can guide each of their children into tasks and projects and research assignments that cater for the particular learning style, interest and capacities of that particular child.  In a classroom you are not living life, you are creating an artificial hothouse, and every situation has to be planned and prepared for.  However, not everyone will be catered for, so boredom, frustration and anti-learning elements will be introduced into the classroom, which will draw the teacher’s energies and attention away from the students who are interested and do want to learn.

Long live the differences in humanity.  However, the socializing agenda (i.e. indoctrination into socialism) of schools militates against such differences.  Only home-based unschooling can properly recognize, feed and cause to flourish the uniqueness of each person in the family.

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Unschooling

Gary North and the Unschooled Disciple

Like him or hate him (and there would not be many who had an ambivalent opinion), all must agree that Gary North’s life has been an amazing string of accomplishments.  At age 18 he was converted to Christ, and soon after his conversion he realized that he only had one life to live, at the end of which he was to give an account of it before the Great White Throne of Judgment.

Gary believed he was called to write a theory of economics that was consistently based on the Bible, but in scanning the economic literature over the centuries from the time of Christ, he could not find any serious writing on the issue of Biblical Christian economics.  So, he set about writing an economic commentary on the whole Bible.  He allocated 10 hours each week, 50 weeks a year, and in just over 39 years he completed a 31-volume economic commentary on the whole Bible.  Gary North has read, studied and commented on every verse in the Bible that has something to do with economics.

Having completed that task, and having written a plethora of books on other subjects that caught his attention along the way, Gary North, in his early 70s, is now embarking on a task of writing a consistently Biblical Christian theory of economics with accompanying multi-media teaching material, using his own work as an authority to do so.

Gary North has critiqued every other economic theory that is in existence.  He would have to be the world’s, and perhaps history’s, most eminent expert on economics.

Imagine what could be achieved by Christian unschoolers who are encouraged to pursue their passion–their vocation and call of God upon their lives–with Gary North’s accomplishments held up as an example of what can be done by someone with a long-term vision, and freedom to become an expert in one field.

As I think of the possibilities of unschooling, and reflect upon the accomplishments of one man, Gary North, I imagine the day when thousands upon thousands of Biblical Christian unschoolers  release their lives’ works to the world, and there is a radical shift in how life is lived on the basis of thoroughly researched, expert Biblical Christian scholarship.  In that day the Scripture shall be fulfilled which says:

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations will come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob, and he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’  For out of Zion shall go forth the law (teaching), and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

http://www.garynorth.com/

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Discipleship, Unschooling

Maturity is the goal of education, not just accumulated information

Amongst my research data, one of my respondents said, “Education is about growing a child into maturity.”  Maturity is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, and lack of maturity is a cause for discipline, or even judgment.

Jesus commanded, in Matthew 5:48, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The word translated perfect could just as well be translated as ‘mature,’ and in fact, in the Amplified Bible, the passage is translated to read, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect [that is, grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity].”

The Apostle Paul picked up this theme when he wrote: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity … and this we will do if God permits (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).

The commandments of Jesus, as they apply to every area of life, are the words of righteousness that Paul is referring to.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  In fact, it is impossible to please God without such obedience, through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:7-8).  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that spiritual growth takes place.  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that a sense of good and evil is developed.

This is why the great education passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, …”.  Not just as information to be committed to short-term memory for a test, and then forgotten; No! No! No!  Children are to have these commandments demonstrated by willingly obedient parents, who gently, but firmly discipline their children into a life-style of obedience, not as a duty, but as a heart-felt expression of love towards God, and appreciation for all the benefits He has bestowed upon us through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The reward for maturity is an inheritance, and the promised inheritance is the earth.  Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) when he completed His obedient duty to His heavenly Father.  This was the fulfillment of God’s promise that He made to His Son, recorded in Psalm 2: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.'”  This same reward is given to those who are mature in Christ: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, … And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things TO THE CHURCH, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:11, 22).  “… made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, …” (Ephesians 2:5-6).  “… to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that THROUGH THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities …” (Ephesians 3:8-10).  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world …” (Romans 4:13).  “… the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, …” (Romans 4:16).

If all we do is help children to accumulate information, coaching them to commit it to memory so that they can pass tests, and examinations, then we fail them miserably.  Doing will always precede knowing.  You do not know, if you are not doing.  A head full of information, without corresponding doing only fills with pride; “puffeth up”.

Unschooling children, through a discipleship emphasis, should be a process of maturation, so that the children will become suitable recipients of the inheritance that Christ has reserved for them: cities (Luke 19:17), nations (Psalm 2:8), and the earth (Matthew 5:5).

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Schooling

What are the characteristics of schooling that make schools schools?

In my research, one of my respondents made the comment:

“On the other hand [in contrast to good education], schooling means: classrooms, no learning and knowledge; when things are learned it has nothing to do with information, it is not interesting and not cool.”

From her perspective there were certain characteristics of schooling that make schools schools.  She held those characteristics up as being anti-educational.

The first of the characteristics is that schooling is done in a classroom.  The great Athenian educator, Socrates, avoided classrooms.  He chose to conduct his lessons in the midst of life being lived.  Cole, in her book, A History of Education: Socrates to Montessori, wrote that:

“… Socrates taught, but not in a school. It was in the marketplace, in the gymnasiums, and in the streets that Socrates carried on his life work of teaching young and old Athenians to know themselves, to know what was good, and to know what conditions influenced the development of virtue. He did not withdraw from life in order to study it under carefully controlled laboratory conditions but rather went joyfully out to meet it where it was whirling along at its busiest” (Cole, 1966, p. 10).

This is of course where Jesus did most of his teaching as well.

When my respondent said that in schools there was no knowledge and that when things were learned they had nothing to do with information, I interpreted that to mean that there was a disconnect between the information being communicated through the classroom lessons, and her everyday experience of life.  How much of school work is relevant to how many of the students?  Sure, a very small minority of the students will go on to higher education, and will spend the rest of their lives contemplating the esoteric and the ethereal, disconnected from the challenges and frustrations of living in a fallen world that requires practical wisdom to survive.  And much of school and schooling prepares those few for such a life.  But what about the rest?  Are they being equipped with entrepreneurial skills so that they are not dependent upon finding a job? Don’t have to depend upon government support?  Can they be productive and get paid for their initiative and industry?  Are they being taught how to be useful through mastery of practical, hands-on skills?  Are they interacting with a range of people, outside their peer group, and being challenged to develop communication skills in a range of circumstances, through a range of registers?

During the beginnings of the Global Financial Crisis nearly 53% of new university graduates in the United States of America were either unemployed or underemployed, and they had upayable study debts of between US$30,000 and US$300,000 at the end of their schooling experience; no employable skills, and no entrepreneurial skills (Weissmann, 2012).  At the very same time, young unschooled teenagers were earning between US$200,00 and US$1.5M annually from internet-based businesses [completely without schooling, but because of relevent unschooling, very entrepreneurial and productive – during a world-wide depression] (Investopedia, 2012).

I would suggest that in the majority of schools, the answer to all the questions above is, “No!”  Children are corralled into age-segregated classrooms, they are given mountains of busy work, required to memorize information for tests, but not shown how the information applies to developing healthy relationships, how to solve complex ethical challenges, or how to be productive and useful in life.

When my respondent said that school and school work was “not interesting and not cool”, she was indicating that the information being communicated is standardized.  Each of the attendees in a school classroom is uniquely created by God.  Their learning styles, passions, interests, and call of God upon their lives are unique.  But how can one teacher cater to the uniqueness of all the students in the classroom.  It is not possible.  I tried for 26 years, and was a complete and utter failure.  And it was not because I am a poor teacher.  I am a good teacher, and I have many one-on-one successes to demonstrate that I am a good teacher.  However, the classroom with one teacher taking care of nearly 30 children (and many more in non-western classrooms) is not an environment that can facilitate individuality.  Montesorri classrooms come close, but not as close as the unschooling environment.

Of course, there are many more characteristics of schooling that can be discussed.  However, these were the characteristics that came to mind from the response of one of my respondents.

Cole, L. (1966). A History of Education: Socrates to Montessori. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Investopedia. (2012). 10 Successful Young Entrepreneurs.   Retrieved 31/05/2014 12:30 AM, 2014, from http://www.investopedia.com/slide-show/young-entrepreneurs/?article=1

Weissmann, J. (2012). 53% of Recent College Grads are Jobless or Underemployed — How?   , from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/04/53-of-recent-college-grads-are-jobless-or-underemployed-how/256237/

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deschooling, Ivan Illich, Unschooling

Some thought provoking quotes from Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich published Deschooling Society in 1970.  The concept of deschooling has moved on from Illich’s definition.  However, many of the ideas in his book are worth revisiting.

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. xix  “Universal education through schooling is not feasible.  It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools.  Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education.  The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”

p. 4  “Everywhere not only education but society as a whole needs ‘deschooling’.”

p. 13  “A … major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching.  Teaching, it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of leaning under certain circumstances.  But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, … has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.”

pp. 13-14  “There are very few skills that cannot be mastered by intensive drill over a relatively short time at a cost far less than the cost of 12 years of schooling.”

p. 16  “Skill teachers are made scarce by the belief in the value of licenses.  Certification constitutes a form of market manipulation and is plausible only to a schooled mind.”

p. 17  “… discrimination in favour of schools which dominates … discussion on refinancing education could discredit one of the most critically needed principles for educational reform: the return of initiative and accountability for learning to the learner or his most immediate tutor.”

pp. 17-18  “… (the) two-faced nature of learning: drill and an education.  School does both tasks badly, partly because it does not distinguish between them.”

p. 20  “The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern.”

p. 23  “A deschooled society implies a new approach to incidental or informal education.”

pp. 26-27  “… I shall define ‘school’ as the age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.”

p. 28  “The school system is a modern phenomenon, as is the childhood it produces.”

p. 29  “If there were no age-specific and obligatory learning institutions, ‘childhood’ would go out of production.”

p. 31  ” The most important role of schools is to create jobs for accredited teachers, no matter what their pupils learn from them.”

p. 32  “The school teacher is a ‘secular priest’.”

p 39  “We cannot begin a reform of education unless we first understand that neither individual learning nor social equality can be enhanced by the ritual of schooling.”

p. 40  “Once we have learned to need school, all our activities tend to take the shape of client relationships to other specialized institutions.  Once the self-taught man or woman has been discredited, all nonprofessional activity is rendered suspect.  In school we are taught that valuable learning is the result of attendance; that the value of learning increases with the amount of input; and, finally, that this value can be measured and documented by grades and certificates.”

p. 40  “Most learning is not the result of instruction.  It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting.”

p. 48  “School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught.  Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition.”

p. 48  “School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.”

p. 75  “Everywhere the hidden curriculum of schooling initiates the citizen to the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge are efficient and benevolent.”

p. 76  “A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.  Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education.  Learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum, or to discrimination based on whether they possess a certificate or a diploma.  Nor should the public be forced to support, through a regressive taxation, a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public’s chances for learning to the services the profession is willing to put on the market.  It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.”

p. 91  “To guarantee access to effective exchange of skills, we need legislation which generalizes academic freedom.  The right to teach any skill should come under the protection of freedom of speech.  Once restrictions on teaching are removed, they will quickly be removed from learning as well.”

p. 92  “At their worst, schools gather classmates into the same room and subject them to the same sequence of treatment in math, citizenship and spelling.  At their best, they permit each student to choose one of a limited number of courses.  In any case, groups of peers form around the goals of teachers.  A desirable educational system would let each person specify the activity for which they sought a peer.”

p. 93  “The inverse of school would be an institution which increased the chances that persons who at a given moment shared the same specific interest could meet–no matter what else they had in common.”

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Home-Based Education

What is in a name?

Very interestingly, amongst the home educators that I interviewed there was a range of names given to the process of home-based education.  I am in the process of interacting with those names and considering as to whether they are synonymous, or whether they are ways of identifying different aspects of home-based education.

So far the list includes:

  • interest-driven learning/education
  • child-led education
  • natural learning
  • eclectic learning
  • self-directed learning
  • home-based education
  • discipleship
  • learning in life
  • learning for life
  • our walk with the Lord
  • our life
  • God’s people walking in His ways
  • family-friendly education
  • activities-based learning
  • hands-on learning
  • hack schooling
  • democratic schooling
  • anarchistic schooling
  • kitchen table/dining room table education
  • learning from life experiences
  • practical learning

I am very much leaning towards using the term home-based education as the umbrella term, with a range of delivery methods ranging from home schooling (i.e. reconstructing school in the home) to unschooling (i.e. educational delivery in a way that does not resemble schooling, but is guided by the parent and at the same time is also sensitive to the motivation, gifts, interests and calling of the children) to radical unschooling (i.e. totally child-directed, without any hindrance or direction from adults).

The list mentioned above provides the words to describe the elements within home-based educational delivery.

Still wrestling with this, and would very much appreciate what others may have to say about the matter.

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